Review for Royal Colwood

Reviewer Score:


I had known for a couple of years that I would be making the cross-country trip to beautiful Victoria, British Columbia for a business and social convention and was intent on playing Royal Colwood, one of the top ranked courses in Canada.

They accept limited reciprocal play at Colwood but got even luckier when a member of the club reached out to me and offered to host my father and I while on Vancouver Island.

Highlights include the mid-length par four 3rd, a hole that plays relatively straightaway off the tee. However, a creek runs parallel to the fairway down the right side and the green site is perched on the other side, with a significant slope tilting toward the water.

The par four 6th hole is a tremendous two-shotter. Kind of a mirror image of the 3rd hole - the drive is relatively straight-away and you have no visual of the green from the tee. Upon reaching your drive, you finally see the green offset from the fairway on a hillside on the left, with a cross bunker well in front for protection. The play is to aim well left of the green and the ball will bounce right toward the putting surface.

The seventh hole is a lovely little drop shot par three with a long, narrow green, very similar to a hole I've played at Cedar Brae in Scarborough. It also has a pretty wild putting surface, ramping up the difficulty.

The 11th hole is a lovely and long par three that plays uphill slightly with a two-tiered green and a large tree protecting the left side. Larry, my host on the day, calls it Colwood's 'Augusta Hole' and it's definitely pretty.

The 12th hole is absolutely terrifying from the tee. It's completely blind, up a large hill and there are towering trees on both sides of the fairway. Claustrophobic types will have a fit here! The greensite is quite deadly here as well, with the green heavily sloped from back to front and left to right. What a tough hole!

The par four 13th offers a bit of a break off the tee, with lots of fairway width and the hole also tumbles downhill. However, you face a shot over a pond to a huge green with tremendous movement.

The 16th hole is a long par four named 'Cathedral'. The story goes that the old Prince of Wales played the course back in the day and said that the light shining through the towering Firs lining the fairway made the hole look like a Cathedral. It was this hole that helped Colwood gain its royal designation. It's a very strong two-shotter, one I was fortunate to par.

The long, uphill par four 18th is a very strong closing hole. Your drive needs to get to the top of the hill on this dogleg left to open up the second shot, which is played to one of the flatter greens on the course. The drive definitely makes the hole but overall, it's a worthy finisher.

You can free wheel a bit out here but there are a number of holes where proper ball placement on fairways and greens is necessary. Playability is definitely the strongest aspect of Royal Colwood - a very enjoyable member's course regardless of handicap. Lots of fun options for all talent levels.

Colwood is quite short by modern standards and scratch players who are in the groove will likely score quite well out here. Still, it's no pushover - there is a lot of subtlety at Colwood and it will pose problems for some. Other than a few holes, notably the 6th, 12th and 18th, there is very little movement in the land and the course plays pretty flat. Macan did very well with what he had, mixes the doglegs well but the lack of length hurts a bit, with no truly long par threes, fours or fives. There is enough variety out here to make most of the holes stand out yet the cohesion between the individual parts works as well.

The towering trees are the most prominent feature at the club and they are cherished there - each tree has been marked and loaded into a database for future monitoring from what I was told. Conditioning was a bit off - we played on the final day of club championships and I was a bit surprised at how shaggy the tees and greens were. Even my host was grumbling about it. Still, the fairways were fine and the greens, for the most part, rolled slow but true.

Royal Colwood is a lovely walk in the park and a great member's course by the looks of it. No pretention whatsoever. With only a couple of big slopes, Royal Colwood makes for an easy and pleasurable walk.

Royal Colwood is a tad overrated in my opinion. I definitely think it's a top 100 in Canada but I don't think the land, the features or even the design warrants a top 20 ranking in the country. It reminds me a lot of Walter Travis' Cherry Hill in Fort Erie, another flat golf course with a strong design.

That said, I've heard that the course requires multiple plays to truly understand appreciate the nuances and subtlety of the design. I hope I get the chance to see it again, especially if the club undergoes their planned restoration program, something the course sorely needs.

I enjoyed my time at the club immensely and I'm definitely glad I got the chance to experience such a historic golf club.

My full Royal Colwood course profile and pictorial can be found here at Now on the Tee:

Date: March 20, 2019

Read all reviews about Royal Colwood

Read all reviews from this reviewer